Roberto Cavalli has made a career out of dressing women in his highly decorative, flamboyant and intricate gowns. Unapologetic glamour, fluidly applied onto the female form with an Italian man’s sensibilities, has come to be Cavalli’s signature style.
Cavalli was born in Florence, Tuscany. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a member of the Macchiaioli Movement, whose work is exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery. Cavalli decided to enrol at the local Art Institute, concentrating in textile print. While still a student, he made a series of flower prints on knit that caught the attention of major Italian hosiery factories.
In the early 1970s, he invented and patented a revolutionary printing procedure on leather, and he started creating patchworks of different materials. He debuted these techniques in Paris, immediately getting commissions from the likes of Hermès and Pierre Cardin. At age 30, he presented his first namesake collection at the Salon for Prêt-à-Porter in Paris. He brought it to the catwalks of the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and later on those of Milano Collezioni, jeans made of printed denim, intarsia leathers, brocade and wild prints. He opened his first boutique in 1972 in Saint-Tropez.
In 1980 Cavalli married Eva Düringer, his companion and business partner. In Milan in 1994 Cavalli presented the first sand-blasted jeans. By December of the same year he had opened boutiques in Saint Barth in the French Caribbean, followed by another in Venice. Besides the main line, which is sold in over fifty countries worldwide, Roberto Cavalli designs RC Menswear, the youth-aimed line Just Cavalli, launched in 1998 and comprising menswear, womenswear and accessories, perfumes, underwear and beachwear. There is also Angels & Devils, a children’s collection, and the Class line.
In 2002 Cavalli opened his first café-store in Florence, revamping it with his signature animal prints. This was shortly followed by the opening in Milan of the Just Cavalli café at Torre Branca, and another boutique on Via della Spiga.
Despite growth in sales, in 2014 Cavalli's namesake brand started posting annual losses, primarily due to poor debt provision. The family went on to sell a 90 percent stake in the company to Clessidra, an investor focused on Italian businesses in 2015. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2019 and later that year it was bought by Dubai-based real estate devloper Vision Investment Co. LLC, which had an existing relationship with the brand thanks to a project of Cavalli-designed luxury villas hotel in the Middle-Eastern capital launched in 2017 and slated to be finished by 2020.